Boho Skirt (Or; sewing for sewing’s sake)

Posted by Bree Frost

Background: Eagle eyed viewers will note that this looks remarkably like an Edwardian petticoat.  Yes; yes, it is.  Time crunching for an upcoming convention means you all get to come with me while I over-decorate more underpinnings.  See Mum, I can multitask!  Some of you nerds in the audience may also pick up which character is getting a vintage re-skin.


You will Need:

For the basic construction:

  • Butterick pattern 4136

  • 3.5m of cotton voile at 140cm wide. (cheesecloth or hailspot or other fine cotton would do, extra fabric if it’s not 140 wide)
  • Matching construction thread
  • 8 12mm-18mm buttons
  • 9ish metres of lace edging for the hem


Optional Extras:

  • Variegated embroidery weight thread
  • 12 Lace motifs
  • 3m of 15mm double satin ribbon
  • 2 colours of decorative fine cord
  • 4.6m of Insertion lace
  • 10m of 10mm ribbon
  • 3mm Twin Needle

Presser feet used:

  • Standard sewing foot (#0A)
  • Buttonhole foot
  • Narrow Edge foot (optional)
  • Pin-tuck Foot (with stitch guide) and a pin-tuck blade
  • Open toe applique foot
  • Gathering foot
  • Decorative Trim foot
  • 3 Hole yarn foot
  • Free Motion Foot


TL: DR (too long: didn’t read)

Take the back side of one pattern, the front side of another, add frills (lots of frills) and decorate… I SAID DECORATE!!!

How to moosh this together:  Note: I will keep stopping in the middle of this to do optional stuff

            Looking at the pattern there are 4 options; two fullness and two length.  We’re picking the short ones.  Which fullness options are we choosing, I hear you ask?  BOTH!  The front three panels will be narrow and the back three will be full.  This means pieces 3, 4, 9, & 10.  I traced then cut all the pieces out of my fabric with the slight tweak of cutting out two centre backs (piece no. 3).  I entirely failed to include the facings.  Normally I ignore the fitting notches along the edges of pieces but realized early on the I needed them because the pieces can be confused and the front and back of my fabric was identical.



            Fabric for the frills can be ripped strips of the width of the fabric by about 23cm length.  I ripped nine lengths total; three for the upper tier and 6 for the lower tier.

            To work out a waistband, measure said waist, add 1.5cm for overlap and 3cm for (standard) seam allowance.  I like about 9cm wide which is 3cm x2 because it will be folded) plus seam allowance.  Having a custom waistband is important for adding in that whole extra panel we cut out.  Also cut 2 rectangles 7cm by 20cm-ish.  These with be the button plackets because: Zips, am I right??


            Sew up your side front seams and your side back seams with your construction thread and finish them off how you like them; as always, I use a flat felled seam with the seams falling towards the sides. Also sew up one side seam and fell towards the back.  Sew up your centre back seam (now that we have one of those) and I turn each seam allowance to either side to avoid the baffling decision of which side to fell to.  Measure 18cm down the remaining side seam and start sewing the seam to the hem from there but leave it unpolished for the moment, we’ll come back to it.

            Fold both placket pieces down the middle hot dog style and sew top and bottom edges, turn out and press to make two long pieces with three finished edges each.  Right sides together, sew a placket piece to either side of your side split so it looks like your side seam has jug ears on your hip.  In my photos, I’ve erroneously put the buttons toward the front when they should be toward the back so press the back placket all the way under and the front one flat stuck out from the seam.  Curl your seams under and finish everything off so there’re no raw edges.



Optional bit!

            Measure out and sew up some additional buttonholes along the two side front seams and run through some ribbon securing both ends. 


To get a nice buttonhole fit, measure your ribbon width plus one mm.  I didn’t do this bit until after the waistband and so couldn’t include the top end of the ribbon into the waistband nicely.  Don’t forget to use some tear away on the back to strengthen and neaten the stitching. 


End of options

            Now to fit the waistband.  Run gathering stitches along the top edge of the two back panels and then pin the waistband flat along the edge from both ends until you get to the edge of either side of these panels. The whole waist except the two soon to be gathered panels are nice and flat and pinned with a gaping gap in one section.  Find the middle of that gap in the waistband and pin it to the centre back seam.  Gather to fit those last two panels.  Sew.  Turn in the ends of the band and stitch in the ditch to seal it off. I love using the Narrow Edge Foot for this as I can move my needle to suit without worrying about hitting the foot.


            One button will go on the waistband and the rest can be distributed along the placket.  Using your buttonhole foot, sew your holes.  I sewed mine horizontal because I like the look of a lot of buttons but you can do them vertical if you like.  The waistband one MUST be horizontal so it doesn’t gape when the pressure is on it.  Sew your buttons on.  If you have holed buttons you can do this with the machine but this time I had shank buttons and so had to hand sew.

            The frill pieces will just be 23cm lengths of the fabric width.  The first layer should be slightly longer than the current hem width. I worked out I needed three strips for this.  Then double, so I needed another six strips.  I French seamed my short ends together to form massive fabric cylinders taking care not to twist any ends and wind up with a mobius strip.

All the optional decorating!


            All the decorating is much easier to do before putting the layers together so you don’t have the drag and bulk of everything else attached.

For the first Layer:

Using a triple straight stitch and some variegated embroidery thread, sew a single line about 3cm in from both edges taking care to use your needle plate measurements.

To mark out the insertion lace placement I used the fold everything in half and press it method.  So, match up two seams and flatten everything out; press.  Fold that in half and press, etc. until you have spacings you like.  For me, this ended up being about 15cm.  Pin out your lace for top stitching.  You’ll have to forgive me as I haven’t mastered the mitering yet.  I just sort of mooshed it.  Top stitch your lace on as accurately as you can.  Turn everything to the back and GENTLY cut the fabric away from the back of the lace.  GENTLY!  Flip it all right side again and, using a teeny tiny zig zag (2mm x 2mm) reinforce the cut edge to the edge of your lace.  You can also use your teeny tiny zig zag stitch to repair any accidental cuts you may have committed cutting out the fabric from behind.


Grab your 3 Hole Yarn Foot and before fitting it to the machine, thread three cords of your choice through with the lasso provided (don’t lose that thing, it’s too useful).  You can try threading it through on the machine but it’s so fiddly! I used two of the same cord for either side and so wound a bobbin off so I had two pieces.  Rather than use a basic triple zig zag (which you can totally use if you can’t do that next bit) I imported it into the stitch creator and added an extra stitch on the outer edges to give it a more blunted wave feel rather than a spiky one.  I also found that if you don’t keep tension on your cords they can go under the needle and get pulled more easily, so to combat this, I pinned the cords to my shirt in such a way that they could run through the pin but in a tensioned fashion.  A lot less fuss happened after that.


I can’t teach how to tie the perfect bow but maybe once you’ve tied twelve of them, maybe you can explain it to me.  To sew bows on, take any foot off the machine entirely and set it to button sewing (if you don’t have this function set a medium zigzag and drop your feed dogs).  After threading on a matching colour thread, I positioned to sew the button tacks just onto the central knot parallel with the edge so it looked, if not unnoticed, then at least neat. Tack down on either side, hoping to include all moving parts so they stay tacked!

To sew on lace motifs, I like to use a darning foot and free motions settings.  If you’ve never tried to free motion before, this might be a great introduction to accuracy and detail.  Just remember to mind your needle a little more as you’ll be moving about in all directions and the “don’t run over pins” rule still applies.  You can go ahead and use a straight stitch if you like but often the motifs might be bulky (like mine was) or having to swing around in multiple directions was too hard (like mine was).  Free motion is also really good for making things look more organic and less linear by getting into all the fiddly bits.


Because I digitized my own motifs (I’m such a sucker) and they were quite dense in the middle, I leaned into the their inherently 3D nature and shoved a tiny pompom behind each one so that they wouldn’t be flattened, a trick I have done on other cosplays for textured effects.

For the second Layer

            Before doing anything else, I did a small, double-fold hem all the way around the bottom edge.  To make it look swankier, I then went back to my variegated thread and used a heavy cross-stitch stitch to topstitch my lace edging on. 

            Changing to a pin-tucking foot and installing a pin-tuck blade, I sewed in some pin-tucks at about 5cm from the top edge and bottom decorative line.  The second inner tucks were determined by the pin-tuck foot I was using.


            Lastly I change to a Decorative Trim Foot and sewed some 10mm ribbon down with a decorative stitch (one of my favourites) down in more of the variegated thread (apparently I really like that too).  This foot makes it incredibly easy to hold whatever trim steady as you sew and also allow more thickness under the foot than a lot of the other decorative feet but do be aware of what’s happening when you get to a seam.

To attach your frills

            To pin on the first layer to the skirt body you must first segment the skirt up so that the ruffle sits evenly.  The ruffle we have already sort of parceled up when we marked out the lace pattern so we need to divide up the skirt edge similarly.  Divide by thirds (I do this by holding things up and judging but some measuring should probably be done) and halve the thirds and halve again.  I use three different coloured marker pins for the primary, secondary and tertiary segments because I’m that kind of person to be easily confused.  Pin frill-pins to  the skirt pin marks MAKING SURE THE RIGHT SIDES ARE TOGETHER (I did this wrong twice, learn from my mistakes) and attach your Gathering Foot.  Slide the side to be frilled under the whole foot, whilst placing the flat edge (not to be frilled) into the “mezzanine” level.  What this does is make sure that the bottom layer is the only one coming into contact with the feed dogs and thus can ruche to the upper layer when you hold it a bit tighter.  It may take a bit of practice to get the fabric tension right with miles of this to get through so about one skirt’s worth of practice should do it.  Once you’ve gone all the way around, you can finish off the edge with an overcasting stitch, an overlocker or pinking shears (the zig zag scissors, if you haven’t seen them).

Last step is to partition up the bottom of the first frill and the top of the second frill just the same and go around again.  Finish of the raw edge as you like and *BIG SIGH* you’re done!

As a post script, if you use pre-decorated fabric, this could be really simple to make and quite quick.  A further post script is to apologize for the photos in black fabric, but that is what the project called for.


Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.

Post A Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

Required Fields Are Marked*

Allowed Tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>
You have not entered information into one or more required fields. Please check your form and send again.